To My Unborn Son: Here’s the Thing About Your Dad
To my unborn son,
If all goes according to plan, you’ll be arriving in a little less than four weeks and I feel compelled in an unfamiliar way to tell you about your dad.
First, I want to say that you always were a totally welcome, wanted baby. That being said, even though we thought we were in control of the plan, we weren’t going to come away from something like embarking on the adventure of parenthood purposefully without struggling with a few concepts. To be perfectly honest, even now, while I eagerly await your arrival, I struggle with the thought of “sharing” your dad.
And while I hear from mothers who have gone before me that children become the most important thing, I have a hard time imagining a day where I could love someone as much as I love him. So before you enter full-on consciousness and, supposedly, shatter our perceptions of the world (I understand that’s a lot of pressure to put on you at this stage), I want to show you a glimpse of the person I know now.
Right now, your dad is 31. I met him almost 10 years ago now when he sauntered off stage at a karaoke bar, full of youthful arrogance and naivety. I was proud to be served underage in a bar. He had just confidently finished crooning an alternative standard.
That night I noticed something about him that has been confirmed regularly throughout the last 10 years. He has this magnetism, this pull, that can draw people out from behind the masks they wear. It’s a rare quality for someone to enable others to be themselves — to let go of some of those silly social stigmas and be earnest, even if just for a moment. It hasn’t ever really mattered if the person is a stranger or an old friend, your dad could always make anyone feel more comfortable, relax their shoulders, sometimes let go of a belly laugh or two.
I hope by the time you read this, you are already familiar with your dad’s sense of humor. He’s disarming and clever. I hope you see that he lives to make people laugh.
There’s part of me that tries to meditate on the traits from both of us that I hope you absorb and focus on, and there’s part of me that knows you’ll be a whole new person and I don’t get to choose the paths you take (even in the beginning, when it might feel like I have some control). But in those times when I think I am piecing together your future personality, I spend most of the time hoping you “get” more of him than you do of me.
I hope you get his artistic talent — he is quite the painter and his dedication to his work in design has been inspiring to watch. He spent several years as the lead singer of a rock band with his friends before moving to Las Vegas for a year. He has always been willing to try new things.
His sense of adventure is infectious and inspiring to me. I hope you feel the same.
He has very strong feelings about what makes a man a good man. And your dad is a good man. He respects women — and not in that vainly cavalier way that some men thinly veil deep-rooted chauvinism with. I have never wondered whether or not your dad was faithful or honest. And it’s not limited to women. Your dad treats everyone he meets with respect and truly wants the best for the people around him — whether they’re strangers or family.
Because of that empathy, I know your dad will spend your whole life truly fighting to know you. He will want to really see you. And I know he will love you in a way that even thinking about, right now, overwhelms me.
The thing about childhood is that we all start out hopelessly self-centered. Even when you’re old enough to read this, you might still be in one of many often self-destructive “phases” of selfishness. Teenagehood is a tumultuous time that will probably make you a little reckless, hurtful, and reactionary. It’s okay if it does.
But I hope that you try to see him. I hope you don’t get so lost in your world and your perspective that you miss knowing the best person I know.
I don’t know what kind of mom I’ll be, son. By the time you read this, I guess I might be one of those cat lady moms with one of those sweaters that has the kitten playing with the ball of yarn on it … although I guess I hope I managed to stay young at heart.
I know it can be difficult for children to imagine their parents as people with grown-up feelings, and sometimes even harder to imagine them as people full of passion.
But I am wildly in love with your father.
I love him with a volatile serenity that I can’t explain. We work to know each other more and more every day and, under all of the layers I have been fortunate enough to see beneath, I have never seen anything that made me question his goodness.
I can tell you with certainty that your dad is well-meaning. That he will spend the rest of your life as he has spent the whole of his — doing his best. Know that he will never hurt you on purpose. That he approaches everything in his life with good intentions. That in the small batch of occasions that your dad has mistakenly treated people poorly, he has course-corrected quickly and will often even lay on a sword and accept unnecessary blame to take away someone’s pain.
Sometime in the next four weeks, we’ll hold you in our arms for the first time. Just the thought of you brings tears to both of our eyes. We wonder what kind of man you’ll become. We wonder how you’ll treat people. We want you to live your whole life feeling loved and unique. We want you to really know you can be anything and do anything you dream of.
We don’t know you yet, but we remember growing up and we have both said things we wish we hadn’t. And while you can almost always be forgiven for almost anything by the people who love you, we still carry the weight of the wounds we have caused others. And right now, what I see in your dad’s eyes — hope, trust, optimism, and sincerity — I don’t want to watch it dim over time.
I take that — protecting your father’s heart — as one of my primary responsibilities in this life, just like I will work to protect yours.
So, son, if you can, try not to say anything you can’t take back. Try not to be hurtful on purpose. Be good to him. Be gentle. And not just because he deserves it, but because you deserve to really know him.